Back to the east – againApril 16, 2014
As promised yesterday, after a brief local interlude, back to matters of national importance.
Last evening I spent a few hours in the company of Mr Christian Caryl of Foreign Policy discussing the situation both within Ukraine and externally with regard to western options to assist Ukraine – short of military boots on the ground.
Quite what will be used by Foreign Policy by way of direct quotes and/or the discussed possible paths to enhance assistance to Ukraine I am as yet unsure – so matters discussed that are controlled externally of Ukraine by western actors I shall leave to one side for now.
An enjoyable evening to be frank – and a few Moscow-centric tales from when we both lived there were exchanged from days gone by too.
This I will stick with matters internal that should be controlled by Ukraine – with or without western assistance – and are unlikely to feature prominently in anything he writes attributed directly or loosely to me.
In the east of Ukraine there are but 3 key actors when it comes to the situation on the ground and the realities they may bring – or not. Those actors are The Kremlin/Mr Putin, Rinat Akhmetov and Yulia Tymoshenko.
Crudely outlined, The Kremlin is the aggressor and no mistake should be made about that.
Mr Akhmetov is currently a “nowhere man” who needs to decide where he is going to align himself – Where best does his self-interest lay? Whose chess piece is he and how will he allow himself to be played?
Perhaps that will be answered as and when Ukraine takes a necessary stand and the results of that become clearer to him.
Yulia Tymoshenko leads the biggest faction in parliament. Her people act as interim President, interim Prime Minister, interim RADA speaker, interim Secretary of the National Defence Council etc. If Ukraine is lost – or parts of it lost – then she will be perceived as being responsible for whatever actions occurred, or failed to occur.
As of yesterday she was still advocating restraint rather than the use of force against those holding government buildings in the east – going against her own people who wanted to employ a counterinsurgency/counter terrorist operation against the very small number of people who are involved in the armed seizure of buildings in the east of the country.
Her position today has changed – dramatically – from one of restraint, to one of accepting that unless Ukraine makes a stand, it will be lost. Having now fallen in line with the thinking of the interim government, a far more robust response now seems far more likely. The consequences of which we shall see unfold over the next few hours and days.
What is happening on the ground now will not be influenced by western action/sanctions to the benefit of Ukraine. Though quite probably the lack of/glacial actions of the west will have influence – by way of complete disregard by The Kremlin – on the ground now and in the immediate future.
The Geneva 17th April negotiations between the USA, EU, Ukraine and Russia are now nothing but a chat for the sake of chatting – nothing will come from them whatsoever by way of resolution. Entrenched positions will quite probably become more entrenched.
The most important questions now relating to territorial integrity are how effectively can the Ukrainian authorities contain these actions within the east? What will The Kremlin response be should the leadership of Ukraine be successful in taking back the seized buildings – both with or without casualties? What preparations have the Ukrainian authorities made for increased destabilising efforts looking to the Easter weekend, 1st and 9th May public holidays, and the presidential elections on 25 May?
We all know very well what is coming, particularly between now and the end of May. It ranges from continued agitation in the east at best, to military invasion at worst. The Kremlin stopping is simply not going to happen.
We all knew what would happen in eastern Ukraine these past weeks before it happened, and also what occurs on what has become traditionally eventful “protest Sundays” here. More attempts – successful or otherwise – to seize government buildings will occur.
Will the authorities be prepared this time? Thus far preparation seems to have been conspicuous by its absence, despite the predictability.